Top Pensacola area high school golfers to watch on the links this season

Several top golfers in the Pensacola area got a head start on the 2023 college season thanks to a successful summer season.

Whether the golfers were on Greater Pensacola Junior Golf Association Summer Tour, competed on 66th Annual Divot Derbyattended the invitation A. Downing Gray Cup at Pensacola Country Clubor were part of other summer events in the area, it was clear that some golfers stood out from the rest.

The first day of regular play was on Monday, with district tournaments starting the last week of October. Regional tournaments are held 30-31. October before the state championships from 7.-15. November at the Mission Inn Resort & Club in Howey-in-the-Hills.

Swim and dive: The best swimmers and divers in the area to watch in 2023

Divot Derby: Pace’s Braden Duvall, Gulf Breeze’s Holland Davidson win the 66th Annual Divot Derby

A. Downing Gray Cup: Tate’s Jack Wallace, West Florida’s Abby Vernier win the A. Downing Gray Cup

Here are six names to keep an eye on this season based on last year’s success and various performances over the summer.

Braden Duvall, Sr. (pace)

Braden Duvall tees off at the Sugar Sands Showdown Summer Tour golf tournament at The Club at Hidden Creek in Navarre on Tuesday, June 13, 2023.

Braden Duvall tees off at the Sugar Sands Showdown Summer Tour golf tournament at The Club at Hidden Creek in Navarre on Tuesday, June 13, 2023.

Braden Duvall led Pace to a 2021 District 1-3A title, then kept its foot on the gas in 2022. Last year, Duvall won the individual crown at District 1-3A tournament before placing second at the Region 1-3A meet.

Duvall’s effort, which also included a four-way tie for 41st in the state, gave him 2022 PNJ Boys Golfer of the Year Award.

But he wasn’t done.

Duvall, who recently committed to Division I Southern Miss, said his big focus for the summer was working on his mental game, and that led to a few different tournament wins on the GPJGA Summer Tour. He won Cook Family Classic in a one-hole playoff at Tanglewood Golf and Country Cluband Pensacola City Championship at Osceola Municipal Golf Course.

Duvall also took the overall title for 66th Annual Divot Derby, carding a three-round 214 (70-71-73). On top of the local tour, Duvall competed at the Future Masters in Dothan, Alabama, where he finished in a tie for 21st, and he also qualified for the Notah Begay III Jr. Golf National Championship after winning the Georgia Regional.

But that’s not all. Duvall also won the 12th-13th. July Alabama-NW Florida Junior PGA Championship in Mobile, Alabama, at Azalea City Golf Club.

Jack Wallace, Sr. (Tate)

Jack Wallace tees off during the Sugar Sands Showdown Summer Tour golf tournament at The Club at Hidden Creek in Navarre on Tuesday, June 13, 2023.

Jack Wallace tees off during the Sugar Sands Showdown Summer Tour golf tournament at The Club at Hidden Creek in Navarre on Tuesday, June 13, 2023.

Jack Wallace was once called one “freshman phenom” by PNJ, and his success has only continued from there. This past summer, Wallace earned three wins on the GPJGA tour, including the Blue Angel Classic at AC Read Golf Course and Southern Juniors at Scenic Hills Country Club.

Most recently Wallace got revenge at the A. Downing Gray Cup, winning the tournament by 142 in two rounds (73-69). He also finished second in the Divot Derby.

Now he is ready to take revenge again. Wallace was the one PNJ’s first fall athlete of the week. He continued to tear through his junior year, but missed the district tournament due to an illness.

“We’ve got to get back and do something,” Wallace told the PNJ.

Mark Piver, Jr. (Gulf Breeze)

Mark Piver takes to the links to compete in the final round of the annual Divot Derby at Tiger Point Golf Course in Gulf Breeze on Wednesday, July 19, 2023.

Mark Piver takes to the links to compete in the final round of the annual Divot Derby at Tiger Point Golf Course in Gulf Breeze on Wednesday, July 19, 2023.

By District 1-3A meet last seasonGulf Breeze’s Mark Piver rounded out the top five, carding a 74. He came close several times this summer to claim another trophy.

While he was winning 2022 A. Downing Gray Cup v Wallacehe fell just short this summer. Piver and Wallace were tied during the second day of the cupbut Piver began to fall off on the front nine holes.

After bouncing back on the back nine holes, Piver finished tied for third at the tournament with a 149 (73-76). Piver also finished in a three-way tie for second at the Divot Derby, carding a 220 (70-75-75).

Gabby Hultstrand, Jr. (Pensacola)

Pensacola High School's Gabby Haltstrand shields herself from the rain as she waits for the District 1-2A girls golf championship tournament to begin at Scenic Hills on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022.

Pensacola High School’s Gabby Haltstrand shields herself from the rain as she waits for the District 1-2A girls golf championship tournament to begin at Scenic Hills on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022.

Gabby Hultstrand is already one two-time PNJ Girls Golfer of the Year. Can she make it a three-peat?

Hultstrand finished fourth at the 2022 District 1-2A tournament before finishing in a tie for sixth at the Region 1-2A tournament, where she carded a 75. With another successful summer, Hultstrand won the Pensacola City Championship at Osceola Municipal Golf Course.

She also finished second at the A. Downing Gray Cup, finishing just one stroke behind the leader with a two-round 152 (74-78). During the Divot derby, Hulstrand claimed the fourth (231-82, 76, 73).

Abby Vernier, Soph. (West Florida)

Abby Vernier takes to the links to compete in the final round of the annual Divot Derby at Tiger Point Golf Course in Gulf Breeze on Wednesday, July 19, 2023.

Abby Vernier takes to the links to compete in the final round of the annual Divot Derby at Tiger Point Golf Course in Gulf Breeze on Wednesday, July 19, 2023.

Another multi-tournament winner over the summer, Abby Vernier’s tenacity really stood out during A. Downing Gray Cup. She trailed the tournament leaders by four strokes entering the second day.

Vernier played with a lead on the second day and shot just one over par to win the tournament over top-ranked golfers. The sophomore also finished second at the Divot Derby, just behind Gulf Breeze alum Holland Davidson, and won the Southern Juniors in the GPJGA.

Vernier placed third at the District 1-2A meet last season.

Anna Kunkel, Soph. (Northview)

Anna Kunkel made a name for herself at the A. Downing Gray Cup. Her consistency – two rounds of 76 – put her in a two-way tie for second place with Hultstrand.

Kunkel led Northview’s team on District 1-1A tournamentwhere the Chiefs won, with a 69 – which was three strokes better than runner-up Savannah Goodman of Holmes County.

Ben Grieco is a sports reporter for the Pensacola News Journal. He can be reached on Twitter (@BenGriecoSports) and via email at BGrieco@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on the Pensacola News Journal: Top Pensacola Golfers to Watch for the High School Season

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top